Character

Basics


List of Characters(no specifcs given for any one person in the story)

- Citizens of Omelas

The citizens of Omelas, as shown by the difficulty the narrator has with describing "a happy man," are joyful and genuinely happy, but it is not a happiness devoid of responsibility. The citizens all "know it is there" (it being the child in the cellar)and see that their happiness could not be without the misery of one. As the narrator says, "to praise despair is to condemn delight," and so the inverse is true as well. The citizens of Omelas choose to celebrate and praise the delight they feel in their city of happiness, this, therefore, condemning the child in its misery. The citizens are not less complex than us and are not barbarians. The people of Omelas live in peace with one another and the world in which they exist without the stock exchange, advertisements…. (things which we consider to be signs of progress) which is why the narrator must reassure us that they are not simple folk. The fact that they are content and happy without the luxuries we find so necessary is madness. Their children were happy and the adults in their midst were "mature, intelligent, and passionate whose lives were not wretched." Another fact is the lack of guilt in the city. "One thing I know there is none of in Omelas is guilt." Finally, the victory the people celebrate during the festival of summer is that of life.
Beyond this the narrator concedes and tells its audience to imagine things, not contrary to the nature of the city, which would make omelas a more believable society with ore believable citizens. Statements such as "I incline to think that," and "I think that," make any statements made subjective in terms of the city and citizenry of Omelas.

- Audience of Narrator

The audience of the narrator is diverse as the narrator says that "certainly I cannot suit you all." They have trouble describing a happy man or celebrating joy as the people of Omelas do because we are they are heavily influenced by pedants and sophisticates who say that "happiness [is] rather stupid," and that "only pain is intellectual, only evil interesting." They praise despair and thereby condemn delight, the opposite of the people of Omelas. Because the narrator consistently says we referringto he/she and the audience, one can assume that the narrator is one of the people he/she is attempting to explain the citizens of Omelas to. The audience finds the idea of a society of happiness and peace and love unbelievable and so the narrator must continue through the utopian city and its characteristics until he/she comes to the cellar where the child of misery is found. It is only after the flaw of the city is found that the city is credible to the audience. True happiness is something quite incredible which is why the narrator was forced to reveal this secret. The narrator had tip-toed around the dark truth, but was unable to convince the audinece of the city's credibility. It is possible that the narrator, being cut from the same cloth as the audience to which he/she speaks, found this city which he/she observed quite incredible until the child was seen in the cellar. The narrator must have asked him/herself "do I believe in them, in the happiness of the city?" The answer was no until he/she found the child in the cellar, that thing which makes the city credible.

- Child in the cellar

The child in the cellar is talked about for nearly one full page from the middle of page three to the middle of page four and is generally vague in description. The child remains genderless and the reason for its solitude is nothing more than a requirement of some strict terms which were laid out by an unknown person or a group of unknown people. The child is feebleminded, but there is no specific reason for this. It sits in ts own excrement and fears mops which are described as having dirty, clotted heads. It remembers having a mother and being out of the tool room in the sunlight. It says "I will be good," which shows that the child knows what good is and is not somehow evil, only miserable and alone. It is malnourished. The child must remain in the tool room in misery for the terms to be met and the happiness of the city to remain. The "terrible justice of reality" is that there must be misery to satisfy happiness. The child in the cellar is the embodiement of the misery required and is therefore locked away to ensure that justice is served.

-The child is an allusion to the Jesus Christ of the Protestant church who died on the cross for the sins of mankind that the wrath of God would be satisfied and the people, after receiving Jesus as their savior could live an eternal life in heaven, a true utopia with no suffering allowed within the gates. "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16)."-

- The ones who walk away from omelas

These people are talked about for a short time as a side note after the audience believes the city could exist. These people reflect on what they have seen of the despair of the child and after thinking on what options they have they leave their homes and proceed to leave the city of Omelas. They leave the city of happiness, and havng been citizens of Omelas are truly happy people living their lives responsibly because of their knowledge of the miserable child. They are the incredible, those who, despite their happiness, see that they are not satisfied i their environment and leave. It is said that "they seem to know where they are going," but do they? Is it that they know where they are going, or are they merely confident in their decision to leave…? They leave alone, each individually. They each take their own initiative to separate themselves from a place that they now believe to be inadequate as a utopia.

- Flute player

One of the citizens of Omelas, this child of 9 or 10 years plays a flute alone. This loneliness is commented on further in the symbolism page. There are no specifics given for the child's personality other than his willingness to allow himself to be "wholly rapt in the sweet, thin magic of the tune."

(also note the minor characters-bearded man, youths on the horses, old woman, young men-)


One Step Further


Protagonist

-The protagonist(s) could be the ones who walk away from Omelas because they are the only ones to see that what the city is doing for their happiness(keeping a child locked away in a cellar) is wrong and in leaving they defy the terrible justice of reality by living happy lives in a place where there is no suffering.
- '' '' could be the narrator who tries to convince the audience of the credibility of the city of happiness
- '' '' could be the child in the cellar who tries desperately to have the people of Omelas hear his/her plea "I will be good…" The child fights hunger and fear every day in a cellar suffering for the good of the city.
- '' '' could be the citizens of Omelas who are forced to keep a child locked away to keep their happiness which they hold so dear. These are the terms laid out by whom, we don't know.
- Just as there could be no central, driving conflict, there may be no protagonist.

Antagonist

-The antagonist(s) could be the ones who walk away from Omelas as they leave the child in the cellar who they feel is wrongly locked away as well as leave the city in ignorance of their wrongdoing for something more unbelieveable than the city of happiness.
- '' '' could be the citizens of Omelas who keep a child locked away for their own benefit.
- Just as there could be no central, driving conflict, there may be no antagonist.

Representations

The people of Omelas could represent the utopians of any fantasy and are referred to as unbelieveable despite the narrator's insistence that they and their city exist. At one point the narrator decides to spout off characteristics of the citizens and the city that are only thought to be truth. These things are just characteristics that make the utopia more personal and appealing and possible in the eyes of the audience. The audience, because of the narrator's decision to direct speech at the reader, represents any culture or society which the reader belongs to. In our case it is a culture of consumerism where wealth takes precedence over all, including those suffering in third world countries. We are not as aware of the suffering in our world, but it is there and this makes us a lot like the utopians of Omelas. Despite their praise of delight being opposite to our praise of despair, they are a lot like us in that when they see the suffering for themselves, they feel compassion and wish to help, but after seathing in anger, they realize that this is how it must be. The balance must remain as it is, or is this just something they tell themselves? Is it really that their utopia will collapse if they allow the suffering child to go free, or is this just what they believe will happen? Will the child remain as it is despite any freedom it may be given, or is this just a way of justifying their actions. At one point in the story, the walls of the cellar are said to "protect," but who are these walls protecting?